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Art and the Internet

Post #1130 • February 26, 2008, 12:22 PM • 84 Comments

[The following started as a response to this post at EW but became too long, too personal, and too off-topic to put up there. - F.]

I tend to think that the impact of the Internet on the lives of artists will be significant but not revolutionary. It provides opportunities for promotion and sales that never existed before, but the glut of people who identify as artists creates a need for filtration, as Oraine points out, and there's no substitute for seeing work in person. There will be exceptions, but I don't think the galleries are generally in much trouble from individual artists selling their own work.

But for writers the whole landscape has shifted, and to the extent that the art world relies upon writers, it's going to have to keep up. The head of PR at a major museum confided to me that most of her friends in journalism are trying to leave the field and move to PR, where the money and the job security are. The ironic result is that there are more and more flacks and fewer and fewer people to flack to. I see this for myself, because I increasingly get requests to mention this or plug that. The weakest segments of the print publishing market are the newspapers and the traditional news weeklies, which used to be where you would go to read criticism of any note. Meanwhile, the art glossies only ever become more superficial and uncritical. You look at the digital cluelessness of the LA Times, for example, or Art in America, and you have to wonder if they're not secretly trying to go out of business. The blogs are a step towards a future that emphasizes individual writers and deemphasizes the banner they publish under, just as musicians can now cut out the studios to a degree that has never been possible. I don't mind saying that all this informs's long-term plan.

I think if anything, art will remain mostly the way it is but it will have an increasingly hard time keeping up with books, music, comics and film in public consciousness. The best part of a book or a song is available in reproduction, but the best part of art can only be gathered in person. How often do you see or hear an author interviewed, or a musician, or a director, for every time the same thing happens to an artist? Culture, in general, is moving towards forms that can be readily shared.

So we're going to get a lot more people working small and on paper because it will be easier to sell over the web. Art at the fasionable end of the market will focus increasingly on spectacle, becuase it's easy to describe spectacle. Spectacle generates a buzz that, to the uninitiated, substitutes for the thrill of seeing art. Spectacle looks good in the mind's eye. Good art will continue to be made in about the same proportion in which it has always been made - in the minority - and it will persist. Art criticism will continue its trend towards increasing resemblance to travel writing, in which the author lingers upon the pleasures, notes the pains with brief scorn, and lumps together all the things in the middle as part of the scenery.

I wouldn't predict all this if we weren't partly there already.




February 26, 2008, 1:59 PM

The art glossies are a disgrace. They're equivalent to fashion mags, and they cater to an audience with an analogous mindset. I'm still kicking myself for taking out a subscription to Modern Painters (now expired and not renewed). Talk about disappointment. The thing wasn't even honestly named, as much of it wasn't even about painting. I considered writing a particularly vitriolic letter to the editor, but I figured it would make no difference, and that I'd either get a form letter or no response. The responsible parties, generally speaking, either don't get it or don't care.



February 26, 2008, 4:14 PM

Flankrin, somewhat off-topic, but did you ever hear the saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity as long as they spell your name right?"?




February 26, 2008, 4:42 PM

Winkleman tells his stable of artists that all press is good for their career, whether it is negative or positive, and especially if the review appears in the NYT.



February 26, 2008, 5:02 PM

Eric, this may go against everything you believe in, but I think in a way what Ed says is true because very few people actually read those reviews that you list on your resume. So a NYT review is a good line on the resume no matter what the critic actually said.



February 26, 2008, 5:13 PM

Well, it doesn't really matter whether the art is good or bad, only how marketable it proves and what collection or show it winds up in, so why should it be any different with reviews? It's all a glorified game, anyway, and what counts is being a player, being "major league," not what the game is ostensibly about--which is effectively reduced to a pretext or a tool, a suitable means to an end.



February 26, 2008, 5:20 PM

The version I heard was "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Period.



February 26, 2008, 5:24 PM

Incidentally, Oriane, Franklin's typo could have been worse. He could have referred to you as Oiran, which is (or was) a Japanese courtesan, at or near the top of the hierarchy of prostitutes in the licensed pleasure quarters of major cities (such as the Yoshiwara district in old Tokyo). The oiran, by the way, is a recurring theme in classic Japanese prints.



February 26, 2008, 5:26 PM

Oh boy. Now you done it, Jack.



February 26, 2008, 5:36 PM

"very few people actually read those reviews that you list on your resume..."

I guess I could find this comment to be unnecessarily callous but I am well aware of what you speak of Oriane and I have been for years. There is a hierarchy in the art writing world. So of course a NYT art review is going to have more value on an artist's resume than one by Eric Gelber appearing in

However, many gallery websites include my reviews in their artist bibliographies and I have had several artists tell me that a review I wrote about their work was the best one they had ever read. So there, nah nah.



February 26, 2008, 5:40 PM

Why, OP? It's not as if I said or implied that Franklin should have written Oiran, simply that he could just as easily have made that typo as Oraine. Besides, I'm quite fond of oiran types, at least the version in prints, where they are frequently depicted as exquisitely elegant and delicate creatures that are anything but cheap or vulgar. Artistic license, perhaps, but very beautiful.



February 26, 2008, 5:53 PM

Eric, I didn't mean YOU, I meant "one". I wasn't casting any aspersions on your website or the value of your reviews.

Oiran sounds kind of like a Japanese Odalisque. I actually like the similarity of my name to ori, which means weaving in Japanese.



February 26, 2008, 5:58 PM

I reread your comment and got it the third time I read it Oriane sorry. Ed is right and whether or not it goes against my belief system of course I would agree with his take on the press kit.



February 26, 2008, 8:03 PM

Both odalisque and oiran were objects of desire, but the analogy is not quite apt. The odalisque was an exotic (as opposed to domestic or native) product with harem-like connotations. Oiran were rarely if ever depicted nude, certainly not fully nude, and their elaborate garments were painstakingly rendered as an integral part of the package. Also, they were expected to be well educated, good at conversation and accomplished in things like playing a musical instrument and calligraphy. They were very expensive, clearly luxury goods for an exclusive clientele, and they could actually turn down a customer if they found him beneath their dignity as stars of the demimonde.



February 26, 2008, 10:14 PM

I really like this; "..,the best part of art can only be gathered in person." Some may have the most expensive picture on his living room, still he may not have the art.




February 27, 2008, 1:08 PM

I can only speak for myself, Franklin, in fact I never saw the originals of most art works I adore. I have not been in the Prado, but I adore and value Velázquez works. I have seen his works only in books or online.

Most average art works I really do not need to see in life, as it is from the reproduction clear, that the concept does not interest me. So, I see only advantages for the artist to display works online. Even if it is an installation, then I would do some more photos and details, that it becomes understandable. I do not say of course, that the impression in front of the originals and in front of the screen is the same.

I changed my style of working indeed, using graphic programs to play out changes in a painting, that would need otherwise weeks. It's exiting, how fast can a background f.e. be changed, to test it. Also, I am very happy to do solely digital works, like collages, even using part of paintings, faktur, paint, digitalized and mix it up.

There is some good art writing on the web, thats all I need, as I never could get for the last 10 years print journals in a bearable time frame (and price) from America or Europe to the Caucasus.

More and more artist will work digital, they go, where the public is. In a normal show, you have maybe 200 or 300 visitors, that's what you have on your blog each day. There are too many advantages, than returning to the good old times. (Your series "The moon fell on me" is a very good example.)

I am not stopping making big paintings as well, because I like the size and the process, and you need to have something in stock for the Old School Collectors.

I want to have a big screen of 2 x 1,60 m (or bigger) in my living room where I could display the art works I want in a good quality. 1 hour one of your works, 4 hours a Velázquez, maybe from time to time a random work from the net.



February 28, 2008, 2:53 PM

The art market ain't dead yet...

A small metal sculpture by Eduardo Chillida brings home the bacon at $953,389. Not bad for a small work.

A squeegee painting by Hans goes for $8,958,050. Who said lyrical abstraction was dead?

Honest weight, don't wave.
No subtext, burma shave.



February 28, 2008, 4:11 PM

No doubt there are far worse people than spammers, but their work is remarkably akin to bird droppings. Birds, however, are driven by a biological imperative; spammers choose to be cheesy, vulgar and blithely annoying to make an easy buck.



February 28, 2008, 4:32 PM

George I checked the prices on yesterday's Sotheby sale. The prices were uniformly high (for the usual run of collector tchotchkes) and in siome cases spectacularly so. I assume by "Hans" you mean Hofmann, and $8 million would indeed be a many-times-record at auction for him, but I saw neither that nor the Chillada, who has been hot lately. Was there another auction?



February 28, 2008, 4:33 PM

Thiose spammers suck. I wish they could be sent to eye-rak or something.



February 28, 2008, 5:18 PM

Yes OP, that sounds like a hot enchilada, all right. At least it had better be, at that price.



February 28, 2008, 5:28 PM

OP, click on George's link to "Hans," but you won't like what you see. Trust me. This is a classic rich idiot transaction.



February 28, 2008, 5:37 PM

Actually, I must be fair to the hedge-fund guy who paid even more for the pickled and now rotting shark by Mr. Clown. Compared to that transaction, this is a triumph of connoisseurship. Besides, it's such a BIG painting, after all...



February 28, 2008, 7:54 PM

My home computer doesn't show links, Jack, but right after I wrote that it dawned on me that it had to be Richter. I don't know what species of archness led George to say it was by "Hans".

You could probably buy every picture in the Olitski & Poons shows 5 times over for the price of that pathetic thing.

Oh, well.



February 28, 2008, 8:46 PM

Yes, OP, but it's so lyrical, or so George says (I assume he's being arch there, too--at least I hope so, for his sake).



February 29, 2008, 7:46 AM

...but it's so lyrical, or so George says (I assume he's being arch there, too--at least I hope so, for his sake)

NO subtext, NO archness.

I didn't know what to call it, at one time "lyrical abstraction" was a tag used for the color-field-smeary type of abstraction. Whatever, pick your own label.

My only point was that this area of painting has a price leader higher than five digits.

Now, everyone is allowed an opinion on the merits of one painting over another and I actually don't care for Hans Richter's paintings all that much.

But at EIGHT MILLION or eighty thousand they are fetching a lot more than some others of the same ilk. I wonder why?



February 29, 2008, 7:50 AM

Is calling Gerhard Richter "Hans" some kind of code or symbol? For what?



February 29, 2008, 8:17 AM

O, That's funny. It was a typo on my part (twice). There is another painter named Hans Richter, I mixed them up.



February 29, 2008, 8:31 AM

Come now, George (25), you know why. Richter, as things now stand, is a much bigger brand name than, say, Olitski or Poons. Didn't you read the NYT piece OP linked to in the Puryear thread? Those rich idiots would wet themselves over being able to make such a "splash." It doesn't even matter what the actual piece is like, just the damn autograph.



February 29, 2008, 8:47 AM

Re #28: Jack and anyone else,

While I respect your opinion, it certainly must be flawed.

Suppose we agree that the price of Gerhard Richter's painting is being inflated by "branding" and "popular taste".

I guess the question I would ask is, if it is not worth 8 million what is it worth?

Suppose we assume that the price has been massivly skewed by a concerted effort to manipulate the marketplace. There is no particular reason why Gerhard Richter should be chosen as the target of this manipulation.

As noted, one can buy Hans Hoffman's paintings for considerably less, why isn't this being done, followed by a similar manipulation of the HH prices?



February 29, 2008, 10:45 AM

George, it doesn't matter what it's worth, only what it will fetch under current circumstances. "Popular taste" is largely what the public (or much of it) has been persuaded or talked into "liking." It's beyond clear that all too many big-money collectors do NOT operate independently based on their own personal taste, judgment and initiative.

Right now, for reasons which need not be justifiable, an "important" Richter is a much bigger coup or statement or trophy than a Hofmann. It does NOT have to make sense, certainly not in terms of taste or artistic merit. It's not about that. It's like a $70-odd million Warhol, which is utterly insane, but so was tulip mania in the 17th century.

The bottom line is that people with big money can easily be totally out to lunch when it comes to art, and there's an inordinate amount of such people running around now, apparently desperate to throw money away for the sake of some sort of "validation" as major or serious art collectors. These people want to make damn sure they buy the "right" stuff, so they follow an approved script, so to speak. In current establishment terms, Richter beats Hofmann. Doesn't matter why, but the right brand does matter.



February 29, 2008, 12:19 PM

George the question you ask is one of many I would like to see answered by a social pshychologist or someone trained to answer such questions. We are not competent to do so because it is not an "art" question.



February 29, 2008, 4:11 PM


Well, obviously it is a mistake to believe that paintings are priced solely based upon quality. I do not think one has to be a rocket scientist in order to draw some conclusions about the factors which go into establishing the price. I suspect the auction houses are reasonably upfront about this and it includes a number of factors related to the artists career as well as the individual work.

Now, without intending to offend anyone here, collector or producer, I really don’t see that much difference between the Richter, and any other number of loosely gestural, abstract, textural, color field painters (whatever) Maybe the painting isn’t as good as a great Olitiski, it’s definitely better than one I saw at Kasmin recently, but no matter, it’s a painting of a particular ilk, hence my original comment about a price point.

What I find interesting is that I paired it with Chillida, a artist with less current press, and the only person who commented on it was ahab.



February 29, 2008, 7:49 PM

Nothing to do with rocket science, George, of course.

it would be interesting to see some systematic scientific studies of the workings of the art world. Might shed some light on why the Richter is $8 million and an Olitski 5% of that. You would be as intrerested as i would, and you know it.

Maybe no one but Ahab (a sculptor) mentioned Chillida because although not a great sculptor he is quite serious and respectable and therefore not consistent with your example.

If you can't see the difference between Richter and the best "color" painters then you can't see it. No surprise.



February 29, 2008, 8:52 PM

re#33 Opie,

I don’t think pricing is quite as opaque as you might think.

Richter has had a successful career exhibiting since the start of POP art. He, is influential in the German academy and I think has written a few books on painting (just hearsay on my part, I’ve never seen them) So he has a presence and is considered influential with younger painters, all considered positives.

Furthermore, he was evidently able to get the abstract paintings looked at from a more conceptual point of view at a time when this was de rigueur in the field. I personally think they are just another variant on this type of painting, but he did what it took to get them considered seriously. For the record, I’m not all that interested in this style of painting, I trust my eye to judge individual works but will not draw blanket opinions about one artist over another.

I will posit, that if he had not done the earlier Bader-Meinhoff series of paintings and what followed, that the abstractions would have fallen on deaf ears. I bold faced it, because I think this is an important observation, the abstractions were validated by his earlier work.

Regardless of what I feel about painting in general, I realize that part of this game is about making what you do uniquely visible in the world and being able to make a case for it within the critical community. As much as I would like to think that everything depends on quality alone, there is so much art out there that by the time someone realizes you are a genius, you are dead.



February 29, 2008, 9:51 PM

Comments are turning off while I go to bed and will come on in the morning.



March 1, 2008, 7:21 AM

Problem is, George, that you can say similar things about a hundred other painters who have not made it at all.

I really believe that there are psychological forces at work that have to do with basic human nature and which we are not able to articulate. For example there is the "trophy" or "lemming" effect, which seems to gather momentum exponentially, where collectors look more at what others are collecting than what they are collecting themselves.

Of course we recognize this kind of thing, but I would like to see it scientifically dissected, in a "Madness of Crowds" way. No one has ever done that for the art business.



March 1, 2008, 8:22 AM

"Madness of Crowds" may be all we ever get, opie. Fortunately, it explains the current state of the art business quite well - for me, anyway.

To which, I personally add Elliott wave analysis. Pop art began what Elliott called a "third wave", the largest of any wave sequence. Third waves are when the "lemmings" pile on and are richly rewarded for their blind faith because momentum "works" in the midst of a third wave. "Everyone" believes "it is different this time", "this will last indefinitely", if not forever.

20,000-50,000 years of art history have been "repudiated" in the thinking of such enlightened experts as Arthur Danto, and the lemmings follow. Art - like science - they all say, makes progress and the weirdness of things we study as "art today" is evidence of how progress has effected change. The fact the images in the French caves are just as good as anything made in the last 100 years is ignored, because such a judgment is based on visual value, which everyone agrees is no longer relevant because it cannot be reconciled with the changes that are considered to be the essence of art. Thus, there is a stock answer for every objection. The avant-garde is caught in what Chesterton called the neat, well-lit prison of one idea.

Non-believers are severely chastised by the ever increasing majority. This was very noticeable in the stock runup of the 90s, for instance. A "bear" was not just someone who represented a minority opiinion, bears were to be exterminated because they were vermin, just as "formalists" are despised in our art system.

As the great Yogi Bera said, it won't be over until it is over. But rest assured, there is a cliff out there somewhere that is the final destination of the avant-garde. The problem is we have no idea when it will be encountered. We do know that momentum is now so massive that there will be no turning back by the mob. They will take the plunge rather than change their beliefs.

For those who do not want to wait until the third wave ends, there is the possiblity of exploiting its rhetoric. Richter seems like someone who has shown how to talk the talk while walking a different walk (he does make paintings, after all) and taking rewards for in in his own time. Frank Stella also comes to mind.

So do the judo thing. This wave is driven by words and explantions. Provide what they want to hear. Remember that no one ever lost Miss America by saying she was in favor of world peace.



March 1, 2008, 9:22 AM

re36. opie

Problem is, George, that you can say similar things about a hundred other painters who have not made it at all.

Maybe, maybe not. I might add something which occurred to me after I posted the comment. I believe, and think there is evidence for, that Richter really wanted to be at the top of the heap.

I think one can make similar observations in other fields, where there are talented people who rise just so far and plateau. I suspect there are a couple of factors that come into play.

One is luck, sometimes chance gives a person that special opportunity, and they are prepared to take advantage of it.

The other is ambition which requires the willingness to keep pressing on. I believe a lot of people achieve some success, a bit of security, and just become satisfied with where they are.

Others, including those you alluded to, may not be ambitious and/or do not get the break, the lucky chance. They give up or become willing to settle for something less.

So, I think Richter is where he is because he did what was necessary to get his career to that point and he was lucky.



March 1, 2008, 9:35 AM

re37. catfish
To which, I personally add Elliott wave analysis. Pop art began what Elliott called a "third wave", the largest of any wave sequence. Third waves are when the "lemmings" pile on and are richly rewarded for their blind faith because momentum "works" in the midst of a third wave. "Everyone" believes "it is different this time", "this will last indefinitely", if not forever.

A bit arcane for here. I think you are misapplying RN Elliots ideas when you apply them to art the way you are trying. The "third wave" is also called the "recognition wave" and represents the point when the players recognize the fundamental or technical reasons for the price move (up or down).

It has nothing to do with lemming-like behavior, to the contrary it represents the point where people are acting because they understand what is behind the price movement. In the other stages, the first and fifth wave, the price movement is generally not obviously supported by the fundamentals.



March 1, 2008, 9:48 AM

// =========================
re37. Catfish (I’m doing it in pieces)

20,000-50,000 years of art history have been "repudiated" in the thinking of such enlightened experts as Arthur Danto, and the lemmings follow.

Well, that’s a bit of a stretch. I would like to know how you came to this conclusion The fact the images in the French caves are just as good as anything made in the last 100 years is ignored… I have never seen this position put forth by anyone.

As a painter I obviously disagree with attempts to deprecate the visual. At the same time I also believe that our visual response is also partly conceptual in that it involves recognition. Painters who ignore this and just deal with the visual cannot assume that part of the viewer response is not occurring for conceptual or associative reasons, even if that was not their intention when creating the painting.



March 1, 2008, 10:15 AM

Elliott's idea was that the stock market reflected social mood in general, not vice versa. So they can be applied to many situations outside mrkets.

That said, I think you are right to suggest a fifth wave might be more appropriate - if it is true that civilization always ultimately tends to optimism. If civilization's ultimate destination is destruction, then this could be the end of a three wave correction "up" on our way to a black hole somewhere.

In either case, when momentum gets going, those who doubt it are vermin to be eliminated. And whether the cliff that awaits them is at the end of the whole movement or just a corrective crash to prepare for the final assent, it is a cliff over which many fall from, without any doubt of the assmuptions they all hold, until they reach free "flight" - and perhaps not too many change their minds then either.



March 1, 2008, 10:24 AM

The spammers are at it again, so #40 may turn out to be the wrong number. In any case, you are right George that there is viewer response to so called "subject matter".

The virtue of Clive Bell was that he recognized that the visual is the basis for experiencing art. His mistake was when he denied that subject matter was just as visual as the geometry that he attempted to reduce all art too. I'm not even sure that abstract art does not have subject matter. It certainly does have "associations" like you mention that come directly out of what is visible. It is not a case of purely "significant form", as Bell insisted.

It boils down to what is visible is visible. If you see a pretty girl in a Renoir, then that is going to be part of your aesthetic process. It is not just geometry after you see her.



March 1, 2008, 10:31 AM

Re#46 or (Saturday 1 March 2008 10:24 am)

Yes. Just put something in a painting which is slightly recognizable and the viewer response will be "What is that?"



March 1, 2008, 10:31 AM

#40: Danto assumes that art today is more "advanced" than it was eons ago, just as science today is more advanced than then. (He is right about science, too.) Thus it requires "advanced" ways of talking about it to do it justice. Perhaps I go too far when I say that because Duchamp's potty requires "advanced" concepts to do it justice means it is "better" in the eyes of Danto, et. al. So I'll settle for "advanced" and forget the obvious placement of value.



March 1, 2008, 10:36 AM

Cat, why are you wasting your time reading Danto?



March 1, 2008, 10:39 AM

Cat, read or have you read? "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson



March 1, 2008, 10:44 AM

A friend of mine is reading a paper at next summer's American Society for Aesthetics that relies heavily on Danto (and Hegel). I've been working on a response to him and found that Danto is very consistent with what goes on in the art business. He apparently has a lot of currency in philosophical circles too, which surprises me because I never have thought of philosophers as momentum players.

Orignially I was going to speak at the same meeting but personal circumstances have caused me to cancel, otherwise I would not be letting the cat out of the bag. These discussions are helping me frame my response.



March 1, 2008, 11:12 AM

Man, I can’t read that stuff. I tried Danto once or twice but I find it just so boring it puts me to sleep.

I tend to pay attention to what actually happens, why and how. I think that behaviour is cyclical.

That ideas start off somewhere in the void, by chance or decision, in response to boredom with the status quo.

If they gain traction culturally, they become viral and gain both cultural visibility and followers. (If they don’t they die.)

In the later stages, the become ubiquitous and boredom sets in, restarting the cycle.

Boredom is the key word here, in the arts it can be applied to any mode of working. Moreover, counter-cyclical behavior will not be effective unless it solves its own boredom problem.

In Elliot terms:
W1 = The start of an idea, it’s initial visibility.
W2 = A counter response by the previous dominant mode or idea. (inherently boring)
W3 = The new idea/mode becomes "hot" and highly visible.
W4 = A counter wave reaction, this may be the initial start of a new cycle
W5 = The blow-off stage, 2nd and 3rd generation practitioners and boredom sets in.

What causes these changes is hard to precisely quantify. I think to some extent they are a response to the current cultural moment and recent history.

In addition they also seem to have a psychological and behavioral component.

There appears to be a swing between the emotional and the intellectual approaches, coupled with a swing between a formal oriented approach or a content oriented approach. These two pairs combine in one of four states and behave cyclically.

FE --> FI --> CI --> CE --> FE

This seemed to make some sense twenty years ago, whether it would still apply in today’s pluralist environment is questionable.

Since they are based upon human nature, it may be that these cyclic behaviors will occur in tandem for different modes of working happening simultaneously. Kinda like Elliot or Magee.



March 1, 2008, 11:38 AM

George, we can adduce reasons until we are blue in the face. I would simply like to see an examination by someone who has a scientific approach to human behavior.

Is it possible I agree with you and disagree with Catfish? Apparently so. Danto is not only boring but vacuous and meretricious. I am astonished that anyone takes him seriously.

Those spammers are like cockroaches. I wish something could be done about them, but I am dead set against registration. Can't there be some kind of retaliation where you flood their site with useless shit like they do ours?



March 1, 2008, 1:15 PM

Well, OP, considering the kind of art taken dead seriously by the same people that take Danto seriously, it's no surprise at all. At least it's consistently delusional, if not worse.



March 1, 2008, 1:22 PM

Spammer has been dealt with.



March 1, 2008, 1:38 PM

Actually, Franklin, I was starting to warm up to the spammer, who seemed to be using some restraint in terms of quantity, and was shilling for stuff like hotels and regular meds, as opposed to porn sites and Viagra.

I guess it's like with art sometimes. When something is not as bad as the norm or not as terrible as one expected, one feels pleasantly surprised, however mildly.



March 1, 2008, 7:55 PM

George, Opie, and Jack: Danto is part of the picture. There would be nothing special about him except that many take him seriously and he appears to have staying power with them. I was surprised my philosopher friend had not taken him to task.



March 1, 2008, 8:12 PM

Danto is one of those middlebrow intellectuals, the Joseph Campbell type, nothing very deep or profound but lots of right-sounding hot air with a shot of scholarly gravitas. Papier-mache esthetics.

I don't know your philosopher friend, but I have recently had the distressing experience of realizing that an awful lot of "experts" and "intellectuals" and "scholars" are about an inch of professional jargon deep, and when they recognize that you are seeing through them they won't come near you.



March 1, 2008, 8:33 PM

Well, they were going to actually pay me to speak at their meeting, unlike everyone else who does it for a line on their resume and for the sheer joy of it. Don't know exactly what that means, but I don't think they would have rejected me because of what I had to say. (I was billed as a working artist, not a philospher, and since artists are allowed to speak in tongues these days ...)

I met my friend when I was a grad student in philosophy. I regarded him as the junk yard dog type of philosopher who would take apart anyone's ideas just to hear the sounds of their intellectual tissues breaking, though it was never personal. I hope to provoke his attack instinct towards Danto with the comments I will be sending him. In many ways he would be a more effective vehicle for taking down Danto than me because of his stature in that organization. But perhaps the attack dog part of him has mellowed over the years. You know, testosterone levels receed and things don't look so in need of a good thrashing anymore.



March 1, 2008, 8:37 PM

Danto spoke at SUNY Purchase when I was an undergraduate there. I was amazed that professors I really respected practically worshipped the guy. A film professor I had admired his book on Nietzsche. His writings on analytic philsophy do not remind me of the middlebrow plagiarizing of Carl Jung written by Joseph Campbell so I am not sure where you are coming from. As a humorous footnote, Danto lectured about the use of the ampersand in the title of the MoMA exhibition High & Low. His emtire lecture was about the use of the ampersand. No wonder he is so popular with the intellectually and imaginatively bankrupt academics. I was the editor of the college newspaper's art section at the time, it was called The Load, and I gave the lecture a nasty review. Years later I ended up reading all of Danto's art criticism, but I stopped reading him a few years ago, because I was no longer inspired by the work.



March 1, 2008, 8:42 PM

BTW, the shunning oie experienced is what I'm talking about when I say once the momentum gains enough steam, tolerance disappears. It will not return until they pick themselves up at the bottom of the cliff.



March 1, 2008, 8:46 PM

Eric, as George observes about Richter, some of Danto's ascendency has been due to luck. Good luck for him, bad luck for art.



March 1, 2008, 8:52 PM

About philosophers: Perhaps I ascribe too much guts to those who choose that field. As another friend of mine in grad school said, "we are in philosophy because we can't do anything else."

But in an ideal culture philosophers are the professional malcontents who question everything, keeping the rest of us on our toes. The evidence that actual culture works this way is quite scarce. Culture today seems more a case of the darkest hour is the one just before it goes pitch black.



March 1, 2008, 9:01 PM

About the boredom that George mentions: boredom can strike at any time in any cycle. I wish it was always a sign of inferior art but it can be a paradoxical response to the best art when eyes have grown numb from overexposure to crap, especially exciting crap. So what it means in any specific situation is up for grabs.

Exciting crap has done a lot of damage to our best impulses.



March 1, 2008, 11:08 PM


The boredom I was talking about occurs when people become oversaturated with something. This typically happens with any stylistic development which achieves a degree of popularity in the culture. It may not affect the direct participants, but it does appear to affect the viewing audience which essentially become jaded.

I think this is an observation which has some support among the psychologists like Dawkins etc.

I believe there is a considerable amount of literature on what makes buyers tick, apparently millions of dollars have been spent on research but I don’t have access to the data nor the inclination to go find it. I do know that I have learned something in thirty years of studying stock market behavior which is directly applicable to the art world. People behave in predictable ways which seem to be persistent and similar over time, events which occurred 100 years ago produced the same type of predictable reaction as similar events today.


Marc Country

March 2, 2008, 7:44 AM

Psychologists like Dawkins?



March 2, 2008, 7:45 AM

Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist.



March 2, 2008, 8:26 AM

The problem with those who take a Danto seriously (OK, one problem) is a pathological obsession with a kind of mental masturbation that may not even produce an actual orgasm (at least not one worth having). Of course, a lot of it is tied to the need to belong to the "right" crowd, the "progressives," the "new and improved."

Danto is for people who can't or won't tackle art head-on and carve out their own personal relationship with it, "experts" be damned, but who want "validation" and/or "enlightenment" from some guru-like figure. The fact the guru is a pompous windbag with no eye is evidently not a problem, probably because Danto's adherents are much more about theorizing and related verborrhea than about actually looking at visual art.



March 2, 2008, 8:34 AM

re: 49

what is the issue with registration?



March 2, 2008, 9:18 AM

One way to keep spammers at bay is to require registration before comments can be made. We had a long discussion about this some time ago. I think registration is inhibitin. I know I find it very irritating and seldome do it on other sites. Franklin decided against it but every time we have a spam attack like the recent one I know he has to be thinking about it.



March 2, 2008, 9:49 AM

That's true - both the part about it being inhibiting and the part that I think about it whenever we come under attack. I spent a few hours coding yesterday and another system is in place that has already shut down new barrages shortly after they launch.



March 2, 2008, 9:51 AM

Are these attacks random and indiscriminate? That would seem to be the case. Is it all done by some robot-like generator?



March 2, 2008, 9:55 AM

It's someone running a script on particular target posts. The process is automated but they are monitoring progress and shifting strategy as I block them.



March 2, 2008, 12:30 PM

Spamming is illegal, surely. Isn't there some FCC outfit to "search and destroy" culprits? Is any official entity actively working to bust these assholes?



March 2, 2008, 1:56 PM

Once you get the government involved it will already be too late for the 'free' Internet. There will be taxation, fees, and rules, where there used to be none. Spam sucks but government regulation will be far worse. The government or FBI cracks down on online pedophile rings, and they should of course, but once they are so on top of things that they could actually prevent a majority of spam, it will be too late in the sense that they would never invest that much money on control and monitoring mechanisms without being able to tax and collect substantial fees from users.



March 2, 2008, 2:02 PM

It's illegal to spam by e-mail. Comment spamming I believe is not criminalized. Of course, if you're a paid spammer operating out of Russia, the question is academic.



March 3, 2008, 12:18 PM

George, oh, I thought, that it was me who sold a new work for 8,958,050 US$, but it was only a Richter ;-0



March 3, 2008, 12:48 PM

I came a bit late to this discussion...

Maybe God brought Richter to the top ?

Maybe Richter had the better Gallerists and maybe the better critics on his side?

Richter became a tenured Professor at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in the age of 38 (financial problems solved = time to paint = nothing to loose = ambition (George mentioned it))

Multi Directions by Richter as BW-Paintings, Grey Paintings, Mirrors, Abstracts, Minimalism, Photo Paintings, Blurs, the RAF-paintings, Stain glass at the most important cathedral in Germany...

In one of his interviews he said, that an artist needs to look good (as he himself) to have success.

(and I also think, an artist needs to have or recreate a good name, who becomes easily a brand, like think of NEO RAUCH for example...) (This guy also looks good.)

Right time right place is also important. Cologne and Düsseldorf in the 60s,70s,80s and 90s - the Center of the German (and maybe European) Art World and crowded of Millionaires and Collectors.

More info at Wikipedia



March 3, 2008, 1:52 PM

Too bad that, despite all the luck and looks and material success, Richter remains highly overrated. But yes, he has played the game very well.



March 3, 2008, 4:37 PM

tenured professor
straight to the top of the heap
eight million dollars

I like the net, I like the opportunity to branch out and put different work in different settings rather than, year in year out, working on a white space oil on linen "show".



March 3, 2008, 8:45 PM

Yes, he has played the game very well.



March 4, 2008, 7:16 AM

Thanks for the link, George, but I prefer the wall display at the paint section of Home Depot.



March 4, 2008, 8:01 AM

Richter's abstractions are awful and shouldn't be lumped together with the work produced by the best color field painters. Market statistics be damned.



March 4, 2008, 8:36 AM

re:79. Eric

So why do you think they are awful?



March 4, 2008, 9:56 AM

I don't like the way they look. My comments are one hundred percent opinion, judgement, whatever you want to call it, based on real world experiences of looking at work we are discussing. My opinions about Richter's abstract paintings are formed without taking into consideration his market value, the critical attention he has received, his glowing curriculum vitae, etc. Now I can go on a bit about why the experiencing of viewing the actual works made me decide that they are awful paintings, but that is pointless. Do you want me to try and win you over to my side of the argument (I actually think you said you would rate them a 1 on a scale of ten so you probably don't like them either) or win over those readers out there who really like Richter's abstract paintings? For those people out there who have seen the paintings live and really liked them, my words will not convince them otherwise. And if they did convince them otherwise, I would say that there ability to know what they like is tenuous and that the whole discussion was pointless. I have no need to be a preacher or fanatic or salesman. My dad was a salesman and I decided a long time ago that that wasn't for me.



March 4, 2008, 10:52 AM

Re #81: Eric,

Lighten up it wasn’t a pop quiz and I wasn’t expressing a personal opinion one way or the other. You are making assumptions about me and inferring something into my question which is not there.

Now I can go on a bit about why the experiencing of viewing the actual works made me decide that they are awful paintings, but that is pointless.

Well then, what is the point of even bothering to write criticism?

The problem here is that everyone likes to go on and on about how bad someone else’s work is but they never actually talk about the work. (exception is opie) Most of the time they do just what you did in your response [#81], they talk about a lot of things which have nothing to do with the work, other people and how much money is involved.

My question was "why do you think they are awful?" Since I don’t really pay that much attention to his work, I was curious why you, or anyone else here, has such difficulty with his paintings. I really don’t give a f*%k about the money, or collectors or accolades, which is what everyone seems to want to gripe about. I’m a painter, I wanted to know what you thought about the paintings as a painter/critic. The other stuff is boring.

Finally, let me clarify my 1 to 10 remark. I said: … on a scale of 1 to 10, they are both a 1. That means I would go see a show but I’ve never seen anything by either artist worth studying in depth. This is a personal observation based upon what I actually do, I just don’t bother with them.

You, and everyone else it seems, are interpreting this as a bad-good scale. It’s not, which the next sentence should clear up. I’m not making a value judgement (ie. not calling them good or bad) I am acknowledging that they do not interest me enough to study them in depth. The sentence that follows was intended to convey my self awareness that this was something I did. In other words I didn’t consciously set out to ignore them, they just didn’t interest me enough to dig deeper.



March 4, 2008, 11:00 AM

fact is, richter makes a lot of these paintings. some are better than others, but i think their real lack stems from the artist's intent. i know we can't talk reasonably about intent and how it informs the work, nor do we care really, but i think we can point to the spirit, if you will, in which the work is made and draw out some connections with their impact. and really, pointing to this lack is made easier by the overtly intellectualized aspects of richter's practice.



March 4, 2008, 12:07 PM

“Well then, what is the point of even bothering to write criticism?”

Richter's abstract paintings are cold palimpsests, layers of paint that he mechanically applies to a surface until that surface becomes tacky and yucky looking. There is no paint handling with intent to make evocative imagery or suggestions of known things, only the anonymous layering and smearing of material with an industrial squeegee or whatever he uses. Idiosyncratic hand gestures are removed from the process and there is intentionally no associations generated by the imagery. These completely unsuggestive Rorschach blotches are really just the ugly results of a lazy intellectual process involving the application of paint. They are ugly layers of paint with no rhyme or reason behind them. They are accumulations of morbid and repugnant colors that don’t even include the occasional happy accident. Richter’s game is this: I want to make abstract images that undermine the painting process and the imagination. I want them to look deliberate but to have no poetic resonance at all. It all relates to this sense of anonymity he is so in love with. We shouldn’t be surprised that his mechanical application of paint and the anti-humanist intent would produce such results. He intentionally juxtaposes colors in such a way that they deaden one another. They do not radiate light or absorb light in interesting ways. The colors he juxtaposes do not combine or interact. They are dead matter lying on a surface, and these surfaces are completely enervating. He is also one humorless mother fucker.



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